Canadian court dismisses claim to seize Kyrgyzaltyn’s shares in Centerra Gold

By bne IntelliNews July 13, 2016

Canada’s Ontario Superior Court has dismissed a joint claim by four plaintiffs to seize Toronto-based Centerra Gold shares owned by Kyrgyzaltyn, the state-owned company said on July 12.

The plaintiffs - Turkish Sistem Muhendislik, Entes Industrial Plants Construction & Erection, Canadian Stans Energy and Latvian businessman Valerijs Belokons (the founder of Manas Bank in Kyrgyzstan) – have been seeking to get their hands on shares Kyrgyzstan indirectly owns in the country’s flagship gold mine Kumtor after winning arbitration cases against the Central Asian country on disputes ranging from seized mining licences to an expropriated hotel, born out of contracts signed during former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s rule, which ended with a revolution in 2010.

The Kumtor mine is operated by Canada’s Centerra Gold, in which Kyrgyzaltyn holds a 32.7% stake. Kyrgyzaltyn shares in Centerra were being contested as security in multiple cases of damages awarded by various International Arbitration Tribunals against Kyrgyzstan.

The legal battles between the companies and Kyrgyzstan had interfered with the country’s talks over the restructuring of the Kumtor mine. The country eventually decided to pull out of the talks and is currently locked in a dispute with Centerra.

In 2005, Sistem Muhendislik was evicted from a hotel in Bishkek it had built and had run since 1992. The company filed an arbitration lawsuit against Kyrgyzstan before the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, which eventually granted the company an arbitration award of $8.5mn plus interests and costs of over $600,000. Kyrgyz authorities did not recognise the award and the Turkish company sought its enforcement in Canada. The Ontario Superior Court recognised the award in 2011 and made it enforceable in Ontario. As part of the proceedings, the court issued a so-called Mareva injunction over Kyrgyzaltyn’s 4mn shares in Centerra Gold legally held in Ontario.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in June 2015 to set aside the Mareva injunction on the ground that neither Kyrgyzaltyn nor Kyrgyzstan as a whole were “properly served” in accordance with local legislation, meaning that the injunction notification failed to reach the Kyrgyz authorities through the channels allowed by the Canadian law.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled in May 2015 to set aside a preliminary injunction over 47mn Centerra Gold shares owned by Kyrgyzaltyn granted to Canadian mining company Stans Energy in October 2014. In that case, the court did not recognise the arbitration award that had initially prompted the preliminary injunction. Stans Energy, which was seeking compensation over confiscated mining licences for the Kutessay II and Kalesay deposits, filed a new arbitration claim against the country in January 2016.

In May a Canadian court issued a freeze order on dividends and 14.5% of Kyrgyzaltyn’s Centerra shares at the request of Valerijs Belokons, who lost Manas Bank under criminal charges for helping Bakiyev launder money, and Entes Industrial Plants.

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